Government crackdown targets press freedom advocates in Vietnam

New York, March 6, 2007—Police arrested press freedom and democracy advocate Nguyen Van Dai and another human rights lawyer at their homes in Hanoi today for investigation under a criminal law that bans “propaganda against the government,” according to international news reports.

The arrests of Dai and his law partner Le Thi Cong Nhan are the latest in a crackdown against political dissidents in Vietnam. Dai has been vocal in his defense of dissidents arrested for pro-democracy writing and for their involvement in opposition political parties. In September, Dai also helped launch an online newspaper, Tu Do Dan Chu (Freedom and Democracy) and has been under tight government surveillance for months. If convicted, they could face jail terms of several years.

In August, Dai told CPJ that he believed conditions in Vietnam had improved for pro-democracy activists and writers in recent years. The government had released several online writers and dissidents during its bid for accession to the World Trade Organization, which it won in December.

“Three years ago you wouldn’t be talking to me right now because I would be in jail,” he told CPJ. Dai’s supporters in the U.S. believe that he is now held in B14 Prison in Hanoi.